Hooray for Iowa

August 30th, 2007

I’m feeling proud of my native state today.

The Gift That Keeps on Taking

June 27th, 2007

So I’m checking my credit card balance the other day (eep!) and I see this little gem in the “special offers” section:
Make someone smile. Add an authorized user to your account.

Aww, isn’t that sweet? Why not coax a smile out of someone just by GIVING THEM ACCESS TO YOUR CREDIT LINE. No biggie — it’s like a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

I have to say, if the best way to make your special someone smile is with plastic, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. Or at the very least, try a few alternatives first:

  • “Have you lost weight?”
  • “Let me do those dishes.”
  • “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?”

Not, of course, that a credit card issuer is going to make any of those suggestions. If they were looking to be honest, they would have said so:
Make someone smile. Pay for their shit, too!

Son #1

June 22nd, 2007

One of the great joys of Google News, in which “the selection and placement of stories…[a]re determined automatically by a computer program,” is the highlighting of stories (sometimes from fringe sites) occasionally juxtaposed with bizarre images.

Take this story from yesterday, which reported on the supposed difference between IQs of children born first and subsequently:
Google News snapshot

How excellent is that comparison? Alec vs. the crazy one from Threesome? Well played, eCanadaNow, well played.

Of course, they’re old hands at this. Check out this one I grabbed a few months ago…


June 22nd, 2007

I know Mike Bloomberg, who recently ditched the GOP, has homes in New York and Bermuda. I wonder if he keeps a place in my aunt’s building:
List of access points, the last being 'GuiltyRepublican'

OK, probably not. But that’s OK — that means at least two people have some shame.

Did You Hear That?

April 25th, 2007

The downside of living in a high-rise is that when it rains (as now) you don’t really hear it — barring an excellent thunderstorm, that is.

The upside is you don’t have gutters to clean.

Would You Fire This Man?

April 15th, 2007

The continuing clusterfuck that is this whole U. S. Attorney scandal has been a fascinating look into yet another ugly face of the current administration. And when I say “ugly face”, I’m using metaphor, but others are being a tad literal. Consider this photo of Wisconsin U.S.A. Steven Biskupic (from this J-S article):

Steven Biskupic

You’re telling me that they sent a staff photographer (the photo credit is to “Jack Orton”, no wire service) down to this guy’s office and that’s the best photo they came up with? I shudder to think what didn’t make the cut…

Best. Correction. Ever.

April 3rd, 2007

From my e-mail today:

The statement “In New York City, someone stole the penis of a chocolate Jesus” is not true; the source was a satire website that was mistakenly thought to be a genuine news source. Harper’s Weekly apologizes for the error.

Wal-Mart at War

March 27th, 2007

The New Yorker has a lengthy new piece about Wal-Mart’s media manipulation PR efforts. I’m only part way in, but already my jaw dropped:

Most recently, Wal-Mart announced that it had fired a technician from its Threat Research and Analysis division (which combats industrial espionage) for eavesdropping on telephone calls made by the [New York] Times’ Wal-Mart beat reporter, Michael Barbaro.

OK, obviously the eavesdropping is bad, but let’s look past that for a moment and consider the name of this department. The “Threat Research and Analysis division”? Whoa. I mean, whoa. That sounds like something out of the Pentagon.

Do you suppose those guys are like the IAD of Wal-Mart staffers? Like they show up at the store and all the front-line people start grumbling? (“Shit. The TRA guys are here. Somebody dropped a dime on me!”)

I’m picturing them roaming around stores, wearing black vests instead of blue, to distinguish themselves as the Wal-Mart Gestapo. Where the regular vests say “How may I help you?”, these guys probably have THREAT RESEARCH in yellow, S.W.A.T.-style.

Their reports, along with those of informants, are no doubt fed back into a secret underground bunker in the Bentonville mothership, where beneath a large “Today’s Threat Level: Orange” board, Lord Vader the TR&A VP sits on an elevated throne, looking down at his bustling minions (who rotate in and out on 34.5hr/week floating shifts) as they scan radar screens for new threats.

And the room goes deathly still when a Wal-Mart threat analyst, bathed in the green glow of his display, hits the alarm button and utters those dreaded words:

“Sir, I’ve identified a new Target!”

Nice Move

March 26th, 2007

So, Jeff and I have a new apartment, and I’m pretty excited. I might even take some pictures after I move in, to illustrate how I’m going to be making some changes in the ol’ JSP tradition. More on that later.

For now, though, Jeff is holding down the fort because I’m still missing a few staples…such as a mattress. (I just bought a bed yesterday.) That’s important, of course, but there’s something else just as essential (and just as missing): broadband.

Unfortunately, for contractual reasons I can only get the building’s (overpriced) in-house Internet or else DSL. With gritted teeth, I opted for DSL. Supposedly, we’ll be hooked up by Friday, at which point I will be expected to load a CD to complete the installation that will install various craplets and set my default Internet settings to those favored by AT&T and its affiliates.

To which I say: fat chance, friends.

Thanks to Parallels, I can run Windows-in-a-window on my Mac. So I will simply clone my current Windows installation, let the CD do its worst, and then dump that instance right into the trash. The install can phone home all it likes; the Mac is unaffected.

Supremely geeky? You betcha. But it pleases me.

I’m at a Loss

March 14th, 2007

Cellular (mobile) phone companies are evil, there’s no doubt about that. Particularly here in the U.S., where service is often abysmal and the companies make every effort to nickel-and-dime you to death.

So I can understand not wanting to give them one more hot cent than you absolutely must, but still I’m confused by this:

Derek C. F. Pegritz, an English composition instructor at Waynesburg College in western Pennsylvania, wants to switch cellphone carriers because of dropped calls, but he isn’t sure how he’ll do it.

“I’m shelling out $90 a month for a phone that basically sits there and collects dust,” he said.

But getting out of his contract will cost him $170. Mr. Pegritz has tried to explore other ways to be released from the remaining year of his contract, but the best he hopes for is a compromise by Cellular One. “I’m looking forward to that about as much as I’m looking forward to getting several teeth pulled next week,” he said.
NYT: Getting Out of a 2-Year Cellphone Contract Alive

If your phone “basically sits there and collects dust”, you’re getting $0/month of value from it. If you’re shelling out $90/month for service and have a “remaining year” left on your contract, you need to pay 12×90 = $1,080 for the next year.

In what scenario is it smart to just let the phone collect dust? If your service sucks, yes, by all means call the company and complain and try to get a break. But if not, pay the damn $170 to save nine hundred dollars in monthly fees!

Millennium Parking

March 2nd, 2007

As brother Jeff and I have conducted our (lackadaisical) search for an apartment to share, I have been spending plenty of time in Google Maps/Earth. While my knowledge of Chicago’s streets has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year, I still need the frequent assist in the form of a nice satellite photo. Jeff, on the other hand, has so much ground-level Chicago experience he could give the Google Maps team corrections*. He warned me the sat photos were sometimes well out-of-date.

How right he was. Just yesterday I pulled up the following map of a Chicago landmark:
Millennium Park map crop

Note in particular the distinctive squiggly shape. Now check out the satellite version:
Millennium Park satellite photo crop

Wait, where’s the squiggly thing? That just looks like a big parking lot. And therefore we know this photo was taken before Millennium Park opened in July 2004. Well before, presumably, because the “squiggly” is actually the Frank Gehry-designed 925-foot pedestrian bridge across Columbus Drive, shown here from another angle:

Of course, even at 3 years old I’ll take what I can get. Beats getting up out of my chair in a Chicago winter.

*No, really. Even now, one block of the very street upon which he used to live is incorrectly marked as an eastbound one-way. Technically a NAVTEQ problem, but still…

JSPJourneys Returns to the Fold

January 12th, 2007

Hardly big news, but I noticed last week that JSPJourneys had very recently (07 Jan 07) switched hands to a new registrant. Unlike the bizarre quasi-couple who took it after I missed the renewal, these people were clearly more of the “domain tasting” variety. (Domain tasting is a practice whereby parties register a domain for a short period to sample the traffic to see if it can support pay-per-click advertising — if the traffic is insufficient they release the domain in order to claim a refund available up to 5 days later.)

Sure enough, we’re now 5 days later and JSPJ came available once again. So I’ve taken it back. I don’t really plan to do anything with it, having long since integrated my travel posts into the JSP.o mothership, but nonetheless it (re-)joins my personal stable of 20 active registrations, (plus another 12 owned by friends and family for which I provide service.)

I’m getting to be quite the little ISP. Er, JSP?

Now There’s an Idea

January 10th, 2007

Me, in 2005:

What if your phone connected directly to your voice mailbox, using your screen to provide the information normally read to you? With a voice mail menu, you could see call information merged with your in-phone phonebook. Rather than hearing “Your callback number is 3..1..2..” you could see a list:

=Thursday 2:12p
Mom, Work  -  42s
=Wednesday 11:12a
Neff Cell - 1m12s

You could scroll up and down, highlight any message and choose “play” or “delete”. No need to navigate through voice-prompts and touchtones. See at a glance what it takes RoboGirl precious seconds to read out.

Apple iPhone, coming in 2007:
iPhone, shown on the voicemail menu

Visual Voicemail
An industry first, Visual Voicemail allows you to go directly to any of your messages without listening to the prior messages. So you can quickly select the messages that are most important to you.

Needless to say, I so want one.

Don’t Know What to Say

December 13th, 2006

All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our [Baghdad] embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage. There are still far too few Arab language–proficient military and civilian officers in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. mission.

Iraq Study Group Report, p92 (emphasis added)

Six people in the embassy can speak the language. Six. I sure hope they’re all straight…

But the GAO also noted that nearly 800 dismissed gay or lesbian service members had critical abilities, including 300 with important language skills. Fifty-five were proficient in Arabic, including Copas, a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in California.

Army dismisses gay Arabic linguist, AP (via MSNBC, emphasis added)

Food Network, Perhaps?

November 22nd, 2006

Monday’s Romenesko carried this blurb on a Hollywood Reporter piece (sub. req.):

Fox News to air “Daily Show”-like program that leans right

…There’s a possibility that it could become a weekly Fox News show. “It’s a satirical news format that would play more to the Fox News audience than the Michael Moore channel,” says Joel Surnow, an executive producer of the unnamed show. “It would tip more right as ‘The Daily Show’ tips left.”

I think a Fox* News Channel version has the potential for tons of unintentional comedy, but conservatism doesn’t otherwise strike me as a barrel of laughs. The other head-scratcher for me is the reference to “the Michael Moore channel.” Does Mr. Surnow refer to Comedy Central? Would anyone, anywhere get that reference out of context? Sure wouldn’t be my first guess that was my only hint.

* Surnow might refer to them as the “We Gave O.J. $3 Million” network.